A long time ago I was in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on a layover. I headed to one of those fine airport drinking establishments and took a seat at the bar. Sitting next to me was Roger Ebert.
I blurted out “Hey, aren’t you Roger Ebert?” Before he could respond I came to my senses and introduced myself. I joked to him “Where’s Gene?” He chuckled and said he was flying by himself to a film preview somewhere.
After the bartender bought us our beers, we settled into some chit-chat. We both talked a little bit about our work, joked about the airlines, and yes – we talked about movies. Since I was a disciple of the Siskel & Ebert show, we had a nuanced discussion about film. He had a flight to catch so he took care of our tab over my protestations and left me alone at the bar, pondering what had just transpired.
What struck me wasn’t his passion for film or his great intellect. It was his humbleness, his empathy towards others and his personal viewpoint of the world. He made a dent in the universe by elevating Film as Art and by taking on humanistic causes. And he did it in a very human way, being direct to the point, honest and with love.
I’ll miss him. R.I.P. Roger.